18 March 2012
Swazi students demand justice
“Life without scholarships is impossible. The socio economic situation in Swaziland dictates that no parent can afford to pay tertiary fees. Denying students scholarships is denying them a future.” President of Swaziland’s Students’ Representative Council, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, is talking about the planned cuts in education funding and students’ scholarships that will leave many already struggling Swazi students virtually destitute.
The students therefore plan to close down all tertiary education institutions next Wednesday and stage a peaceful protest march to deliver a petition to Minister of Labour and Social Security, Lufto Dlamini.
According to Nhlabatsi, the protest might be directed at student-related issues, but it is also a protest against a regime where the absolute monarch, Mswati III, in effect rules by decree, where the government has virtually bankrupted the country while lining its own pockets, where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day many of food aid and where life-expectancy is less than 40.
“Our country is undemocratic,” he says. “All the problems and crisis you see are traceable to the system of government. So issues in Swaziland cannot be separated from the bad governance.”
Nhlabatsi says that the students expect the regime to respond to the march with intimidation and violence, something that pro-democracy protestors have come to expect. “Police will stage roadblocks everywhere. We will be frustrated from the word go and we will denied the right to march on the streets.”